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China-Australia ties back on track

By John Queripel | | Updated: 2024-06-19 14:35
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Premier Li Qiang shakes hands on Monday with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during the ninth China-Australia Annual Leaders' Meeting in Canberra, Australia. [Photo by Wang Ye / Xinhua]

Chinese Premier Li Qiang just wrapped up his official visit to Australia, the second stop in his three nation tour of New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia.

The visit, the first by a Chinese Premier in seven years, represents an important thaw in relations after they fell into a deep freeze under the previous Australian government.

The upgrade began last November when Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited China. It continued with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paying a visit to Australia in March.

The improvement in relations was confirmed by Li Qiang, who wrote in the visitor's book at Australia’s Parliament House "the friendship between China and Australia is evergreen."

The Premier first travelled to Adelaide, the hometown of the Australian Foreign minister, Penny Wong. This was followed by visits to the national capital, Canberra, and Perth, before his departure for Malaysia.

During his time in Canberra, Li Qiang co-chaired the 9th China-Australia Annual Leaders' Meeting with Albanese at Parliament House. These Leaders' Meeting, which had collapsed under the previous Australian government, are intended to be annual events.

Li Qiang said the most important experience drawn from the past decade of development in China-Australia relations is that the two sides should respect each other, seek common ground while shelving differences and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation.

"China is ready to work with Australia to uphold the comprehensive strategic partnership, give full play to such mechanisms as the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, scale up trade, actively expand cooperation in areas like new energy vehicles and renewable energy power generation, and step up exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism and other fields."

To that end, China will include Australia in its unilateral visa waiver program, with the two sides agreeing to provide each other with reciprocal access to multiple-entry visas of up to three to five years’ duration for tourism, business, and visiting family members.

Li Qiang said, "China is ready to step up coordination and cooperation with Australia at the regional and international level, and oppose bloc confrontation and a new Cold War for the broadest common interests of all parties, that is, safeguarding peace and stability in the region."

Albanese said, "In recent decades, China’s economic transformation has lifted more people out of poverty than any nation."

"Like Premier Li’s presence here now, my visit to China last year was a step forward in stabilizing the relationship between our two nations…We continue to cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interest."

Li Qiang travelled with a delegation largely made up of Chinese business leaders who participated in the 7th Australia-China CEO Roundtable. This business side of the visit was concentrated on the Western Australian capital, Perth, the state with the strongest economic ties with China through its mineral exports, particularly iron ore.

China and Australia have highly complementary economic needs, clearly seen in that one-third of both imports and exports to and from Australia are to China. This trade had been seriously impacted under the previous government.

Beginning with Australia banning Huawei from its telecommunications network, a series of tit-for-tat trade barriers escalated until they began costing Australia some $15 billion annually. These barriers to Australian exports have nearly all now been removed with Australian Minister for Trade Don Farrell recently commenting, "I've now met with my equivalent seven times, and all of the indications I get from him is that, like us, they want to put these issues behind us."

Such a visit would be the clearest signal that the unfortunate hiccup in China-Australia relations has been consigned to history.

John Queripel is a Newcastle, Australia-based writer, historian and social commentator.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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